Beholder cruises to victory in the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Beholder cruises to victory in the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Benoit Photo

Champ Beholder Back in Form for 'Virgenes Win

Compromised in her first start of the year by a throat ulcer, she romps in return.

Compromised by a throat ulcer in her first start of the year, the real Beholder showed up in the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) March 2 at Santa Anita Park, romping over seven 3-year-old filly opponents to a 3 3/4-length victory (VIDEO).

Garrett Gomez put odds-on favorite Beholder, the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning juvenile filly, on the lead out of the gate and she was never challenged. After Gomez stole a couple of quick glances over his shoulder late on the backstretch to see if there were any threats on the horizon, she left second choice Fiftyshadesofhay behind on the far turn and was in command all the way to the wire.

The final time for the one-mile test was 1:36.14 over a fast main track.

Beholder, owned by B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm, is trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella. The daughter of Henny Hughes out of the Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady was bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm. Beholder is a half sister to Hughes' 2007 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner Into Mischief  (Harlan's Holiday), now a fast-rising Spendthrift stallion.

She cost Hughes $180,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Beholder ran a sluggish second in her initial 3-year-old start, the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 21 at 6 1/2 furlongs, showing little of the aggressive style she displayed in her front-running victory in last fall's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). A post-race examination revealed the throat ulcer, which was successfully treated with antibiotics, according to Mandella.

Fiftyshadesofhay held second, with Scarlet Strike a late-running third.

The Las Virgenes victory was worth 50 points toward a berth in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 3, making her a likely starter, though Mandella wasn't quite ready to commit to that this early in the year.

"We dream of those things," Mandella said. "When you've got one this great, you just hope you don't mess it up.

"Everything she did today was great. She's a great filly. We'll enjoy this today, but plans are for her to run next in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I, at 1 1/16 miles on April 6)."

Mandella won the Las Virgenes for the first time since 1993 with Likeable Style.

In posting her fourth lifetime win in seven starts, Beholder clipped off quarter mile fractions of :23.78 and :47.55 while racing two lengths clear of the Bob Baffert-trained Fiftyshadesofhay, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, and outsider Ridingwiththedevil. Beholder was three lengths in front at the quarter pole, posting six furlongs in 1:11.19, and was four lengths clear at mid-stretch. She finished up under a strong hand ride from Gomez as the 4-5 pick.

Gomez, who has ridden Beholder in all of her races, said Mandella didn't want to use the throat problem as an excuse for the Santa Ynez.

"She had been doing everything so superbly in the mornings," Gomez noted, "sitting off horses, doing whatever was asked, etc, that it was mind-boggling that she didn't kick for me when we turned for home (last time). We came to find out that there was a little something there. It was a whole different feeling today. She did everything beautiful, she traveled beautifully, when I asked her to quicken, she quickened; I couldn't have asked her to do anything better for me."

Fiftyshadesofhay, who sparked support with her 5 3/4-length tally in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 26, was left in Beholder's wake was a clear second by 1 1/2 lengths. Scarlet Strike, last fall's Chandelier Stakes (gr. I) runner-up for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, rallied from fifth on the far turn to land the show spot for Mike Smith.

Heir Kitty, Speedinthruthecity, Ridingwiththedevil, Lady Asano, and Santa Ynez upset winner Renee's Titan completed the order.

Beholder earned $150,000 for the victory and has now banked $1,395,000 in her brief career.

Carrying top weight of 122 pounds, she paid $3.60, $2.40, and $2.10, while keying an $8.40 exacta with Fiftyshadesofhay, who returned $2.80 and $2.40. Scarlet Strike paid $3.20.

"She was too fast," Bejarano said of the winner. "As soon as we got into the stretch, (Beholder) took off really fast. She showed a good kick, my horse was still running, but it was not enough. It was a good second; no excuses."